In Acts 2:42ff., Luke mentions three ways in which these early believers shared Christian fellowship: practical fellowship for those in need, fellowship in public worship, and fellowship in homes. Here are some comments on the first aspect and I will comment on the others next time.
One of the interesting features of the converts on the Day of Pentecost is that they came from different parts of the world, although no doubt many of them would also have been from Jerusalem. After their experience on that day, it is clear that the visitors remained in Jerusalem for some time before returning home. They did not live in the kind of financial society in which we do and take a credit card with them. Their temporal needs had to be met, and one way by which this was done was some believers selling their possessions and sharing with those in need.
Their experience is a reminder that God in providence can bring about situations in which practical help has to be provided. Suddenly a group of believers find themselves having to care for another group of believers who are in need. The period of need may be long or short. When such situations occur in everyday life, they are regarded as hindrances to normal life, distracting people from their regular pattern of life. In total contrast, when such circumstances occur in a church or to a church, they are opportunities for fellowship provided by the heavenly Father.
Practical fellowship is evidence of brotherly love. This is a basic point, yet it is one that we can often forget. The apostle John reminds us: ‘But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth’ (1 John 3:17-18). Because these believers at Pentecost had been affected deeply by the love of God, they gladly shared with those who were in need.
Practical fellowship reveals what we think of Jesus. On the Day of Judgement, the needs of God’s people are one of the items that will be considered. In Matthew 25:35-40, Jesus says that what we do for his followers is the same as if we had done it for him. If Jesus came into my presence and I saw that he needed a meal, I would give him one. He does come into my presence whenever I see a Christian in need. My response to that needy believer tells me how much I would do for Jesus Christ.
Of course, we are not to assume that every need is financial. In fact, most needs that we will encounter among God’s people in our society will not be categorised under this heading. There are countless number of other needs that can be met – loneliness, fear, distress, sorrow. Practical fellowship is a mark of the people of God. It is a reminder that we should move around with our eyes alert to possible needs, and a heart resolved to meet those needs.